Golf club finances improve

LEESBURG -- Only a shaky 3-2 vote in early March 2009 by the Lee County Commission -- which followed a heated and somewhat contentious discussion -- kept the Grand Island Club open under the county's control.

And while commissioners eventually voted to keep the club open, they made it clear there would need to be dramatic changes for the facility to survive.

Monday night, Grand Island General Manager Vic McKinley and Club Administrator Paige Etheredge offered evidence of just such drama.

The county's Parks & Recreation Authority -- made up of the five members of the Board of Commissioners -- held a special called meeting to discuss the club's finances Monday. And what a difference a year made.

"There's been a significant effort made, based on your direction, to cut costs and bring in more revenue," County Administrator Alan Ours told the commissioners during the meeting. "That's certainly been the case. Overall, revenue is up by $41,000 and expenses are down by more than $95,000.

"This is certainly indicative of Vic and his staff carrying through on your directions."

Even with an abundance of rain days cutting into golf revenue -- which was actually down $5,500 from 2009 totals for the period from July 1 to April 19 -- the county-owned country club made a significant turnaround.

McKinley said membership had increased by around 125, and numbers supplied by County Finance Director Heather Kittrell showed that revenue was up in the pro shop by almost $20,000, in dues by $17,000, in food services by $10,000 and in interest collected by just under $100.

"This is certainly a more fun meeting than some of the ones we went to together last year," McKinley said after the meeting. "But we just have a great staff at the club. Everyone worked hard and made sacrifices, and we all came together to make this work.

"And we still have 2 1/2 of our best months ahead of us (before the end of the fiscal year)."

Ours noted as much, telling commissioners the club had collected in excess of $26,000 in golf fees over the last two weekends.

"The big reason there has been less golf activity so far this year is the El Nino weather conditions that have led to a significant number of rain days at the course," Ours said. "We've had rain on low-traffic days, and we've had rain on weekends and key holidays."

Projected out over 12 months -- with more than $27,000 in depreciation for equipment figured into the totals -- Grand Island would come within $3,423.24 of breaking even if a budgeted $40,000 transfer from the county's general fund is made.

"If you take out the depreciation, the club would actually be in the black by $24,000," Ours said.

Commissioner Bill Williams, who is a CPA, asked if the fund transfer would still be made if not necessary to pay Grand Island bills, and Kittrell indicated it would not.

"If they have the money in their account to pay the bills, I wouldn't recommend making the transfer," Kittrell said.

Etheredge told the Board Grand Island currently has a cash balance of $69,000.

"I appreciate what Alan has done in concert with y'all in regards to (cutting) expenses, and I appreciate staffs efforts to increase revenue," Board Chair Ed Duffy said to McKinley. "This is just a job well done."

Williams, who along with Redbone Commissioner Dennis Roland voted against keeping Grand Island under county control in March 2009, said Ours deserves praise for his efforts in turning the club's finances around.

"I give Alan a whole lot of the credit," Williams said. "He's really worked hard to help them come up with ways to cut costs. And I'm really proud of what they've accomplished.

"I won't say that I'm surprised, though. This is what we planned all along."